Gurney Brings Home Victory for GAINSCO
Alex Gurney took the lead on a four-wide pass on Lap 65 of 81 laps in the two-hour, 45-minute Bosch Engineering 250, and then held off Michael Valiante in a sprint to the finish to capture the raceat Virginia International Raceway, Round 2 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
The GT race also came down to the wire, with Robin Liddell holding off Paul Edwards by .107 seconds to give the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis its second straight VIR victory. Edwards shared the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R with defending GT co-champion Kelly Collins.
It was the ninth victory for Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, in their 40th start driving together dating back to 2006 at VIR.
Gurney led the final 17 circuits, winning by .705 seconds over Valiante, who was co-driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley started by John Pew. Darren Law and David Donohue, winners of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, finished third in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley.
Valiante and Scott Pruett – in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley — pressured Gurney throughout the closing laps, although all three cars were unsure of having enough fuel to compete the two hour, 45 minute distance on the challenging 3.27-mile circuit. With 12 minutes remaining, Andy Wallace went off course in the No. 2 Gentleman Jack’s Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to bring out the fourth caution of the event.
That resulted in a three-lap sprint to the finish, with Gurney trying to hold off Valiante, Pruett, Donohue and Max Angelelli, who was driving the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara. Donohue, Pruett and Angelelli made contact, with Angelelli going off course. Gurney then held off Valiante over the final two laps to take the victory.
”It was a great day,” said Gurney, who shared the 2007 Daytona Prototype championship with Fogarty. “This is where we always aim to be. Our guys did some great work over the off season, and did a lot of work after Daytona. We really made some big improvements. It was a typical Grand-Am race – really tough – and I was happy to be up there and winning. It was a great race for Michael Valiante. It was just an unlucky deal for him – I’ve been sitting in that position before.”
Pruett was driving in relief of pole-winner Memo Rojas, who led a race-high 27 circuits before handing over to Pruett.
Valiante led 15 circuits in his second race for Michael Shank Racing.
”I was trying to save fuel, but not enough to affect the outcome of the race,” Valiante said. “When the yellow flag came out, we were able to run hard to the end. But Alex had just a little bit more than me, and that made it difficult for me to get by. We had the car to beat for sure, but we came up on lapped traffic that allowed Alex to pull out and take the lead.”
Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker took fourth in the Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley, followed by Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger in the No. 77 Doran Racing McDonalds Ford Dallara.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ozz Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhardt in the No. 12 Penske Racing Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley; Joao Barbosa and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley; Darren Manning and Bill Lester in the No. 45 Orbit Racing BMW Riley; and Guy Cosmo and Scott Russell in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote.
The race was slowed four times for 17 laps. The top eight finishers completed 81 laps, averaging 96.074 mph.
Donohue and Law hold a one-point lead over Gurney and Fogarty, 60-59, heading into the next event, the May 3 Verizon Wireless 250 presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Pontiacs Finish 1-2 in Close GT Battle
Liddell held off Edwards by .107 seconds to capture GT honors, giving the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports/Bryan Mark Pontiac GXP.R its second consecutive victory at Virginia International Raceway.
Edwards and co-driver Collins led a race-high 35 laps in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, but Liddell got by with 12 laps remaining and prevailed in a sprint to the finish.
”To be honest, we didn’t have the pace to stay with the Mazda, but we knew the Pontiacs would be strong over the race distance,” Liddell said. “We knew Paul would be strong. We knew if we could be consistent and keep the car underneath us we could take charge at the end.”
After Liddell made his pass for the lead, Edwards attempted to regain the point. The two cars bumped, Edwards went off course briefly, and Liddell led the remainder of the race.
”Our AC turned into a 200-degree heater,” Edwards said. “Robin Liddell was pushing hard, I made a mistake and he took advantage of it. He got by, and I had nothing for him after that.”
Liddell was also bothered by the heat, with the duct pushing cool air to his helmet falling off.
“You don’t realize how important the driver aids are until you have problems,” Liddell said. “It was very hot, and the pace was incredible. We just kept our heads down and kept going.”
Nick Ham won the pole in the No. 70 SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 and led twice for 22 laps in the early going. Sylvain Tremblay took over and finished third, .204 seconds behind the class winner.
Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3s took the next two positions, with Dirk Werner and Leh Keen placing fourth in the No. 87, followed by Eric Lux and Wolf Henzler in the No. 86.
– Courtesy Grand American SeriesNo Comment